Accessibility: England’s National Centre’s Translator Mentoring

In News by Porter Anderson

The UK’s National Centre for Writing adds mentoring for deaf, disabled, and neurodiverse translators to its language-based offers.

The spire of Norwich Cathedral, near the National Centre for Writing. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Wirestock

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Deadline for Applications: August 28
The United Kingdom’s National Centre for Writing in Norwich’s 2023-2024 program of emerging translator mentoring includes this year a new availability for deaf, disabled, or neurodiverse applicants. (Neurodiverse refers to a kind of brain functioning that’s not pathological but isn’t neurotypical—in short to a person whose mind may work in a way that many others’ minds do not.)

In its 14th year, the center’s mentoring programming for translators is making this new category of mentoring services available by installing it as one of the languages or language groups in the program’s list of available linguistic options. The languages or language groups chosen are, the center’s staff says in today’s (August 8) media messaging, “currently under-represented” in English-language translation.

Holly Ainley

Holly Ainley, who leads programs and creative engagement at the center, says in a prepared comment, “In recent years, we’ve done much work across our program in lowering barriers to accessibility, and over the past 12 months [we’ve] been inspired by conversations with members of the Society of Authors Translators Association, who have helped us understand where the need for support lies in this area and to develop this bespoke opportunity in response.

“We anticipate high demand for this new mentorship, alongside all those on offer this year and we look forward to welcoming applications.”

Rebecca DeWald

The center’s program manager, Rebecca DeWald, says, “We have continued to tweak the program to increase accessibility while also making adjustments to limit travel in light of climate change.”

The program, she says, had its first suggestion for an accessibility-based mentorship from “former mentee and this year’s Korean mentor Clare Richards.”

The new element, she says, fits the program’s ongoing efforts “to increase access for translators from underrepresented groups to the world of literary translation.”

Nine Categories of Mentorships Offered

The program reports that it has so far worked with 122 translators in 35 languages.

Some alumni of the program have gone on to be honored by awards programs, and of course England is the most avid prize-program market in the world book publishing industry.

An example of an award-winner is Nichola Smalley, whose translation of Andrzej Tichý’s Wretchedness (And Other Stories, 2020) won the 2021 Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize and was longlisted for the International Booker Prize. Another instance is Reuben Woolley’s translation of Andrey Kurkov’s Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv (Hachette/MacLehose Press, April 4).

In addition, the program flags Sophie Hughes’ translations of Alia Trabucco Zerán’s The Remainder (And Other Stories, 2018) and Fernanda Melchor’s Hurricane Season (Fitzcarraldo Editions). The Zerán-Hughes translation was shortlisted for the 2019 International Booker and Hughes’ translation of Melchor was shortlisted by the International Booker jury in the next year, 2020.

And this is the program, as Publishing Perspectives readers know, established by translator and author Daniel Hahn in 2010 to put together experienced and newly active translators, each pair working over a six-month period on practical translation projects.

Daniel Hahn

Those chosen to be mentored receive an £800 (US$1,019) stipend and access to “dedicated weekends of training and talks, various events such as International Translation day observations and London Book Fair, a digital showcase of their work, and inclusion in an anthology publication.

This new year cycle of the programming’s options comprise:

  • A deaf, disabled or neurodiverse translator based in the United Kingdom and working in any language, mentored by Khairani Barokka
  • Arabic, mentored again by Sawad Hussain
  • Italian, mentored by Elena Pala
  • Japanese, mentored by Polly Barton
  • Korean, mentored by Clare Richards
  • Polish, mentored by Sean Gasper Bye
  • Québec French or First Nations languages, mentored by Sarah Ardizzone
  • Languages of Singapore, mentored by Jeremy Tiang
  • Swiss German, mentored by Jamie Lee Searle

The Singapore-languages program with Tiang is open to emerging translators working anywhere on translating languages of Singapore into English. In the case of the Québec French or First Nations languages mentorship, preference will be given to applicants based in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Nordic markets.

Participants selected are provided their mentoring without charge.

The Arabic mentorship is again supported by the Sheikh Zayed Book Award. Additionally, the translation mentoring program is supported by Arts Council England, the Italian Cultural Institute, the Literary Translation Institute of Korea, National Arts Council Singapore, the Polish Cultural Institute, ProHelvetia, the Québec Government Office in London, the Society of Authors, and the Yanai Initiative for Globalizing Japanese Humanities at UCLA and Waseda University.

Those interested in applying should see this page for more information.

Peggy Hughes Succeeds Chris Grimble

After his 17 years with the program, Chris Grimble steps down in September to become CEO of the Forum Trust.

Peggy Hughes, the National Centre’s executive director since 2022, was for four years prior to that the company’s program director, and will become CEO.

Originally from Northern Ireland, Hughes’ trustee roles include being the current co-chair of StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival; and former chair of the Literature Alliance Scotland. She was recently made an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Literature for her significant contribution to the advancement of literature.

Peggy Hughes

Hughes says she sees the National Centre as “a unique proposition—a literature house rooted in our medieval home in Norwich UNESCO City of Literature and open to the world, supported by an incredible set of funders, partners and friends.

“It’s an honor to build on Chris Gribble’s exceptional and pioneering tenure, and a genuine joy to be able to lead our wonderful team into the next chapter. I can’t wait to open our doors wide to new opportunities and adventures in writing, translating and reading for all our artists, communities and audiences, working together to build a National Centre for Writing that’s fit for the future and open to all.”


More from Publishing Perspectives on translation is here, more on the National Centre for Writing is here, and more from the United Kingdom’s market is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the world media partner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.